Opinion: Public education needs to return to the basics

State representative candidate says we need a new approach to schools

State representative candidate Michael Grant speaks at a rally in Fairfield in July.
State representative candidate Michael Grant speaks at a rally in Fairfield in July.Brian A. Pounds/Hearst Connecticut Media

Many parents, including myself, look forward to the beginning of each school year with much hope and promise for our children. This year is especially poignant because for the first time since the start of the 2019 school year, our children returned to the classroom without COVID restrictions. But, like most parents, we still worry about our kids.  For two years, we worried when masks would come off, when sports and activities would resume, when social distancing would end, and when our kids could be kids again. We also worried about what our kids were losing academically. Turns out it was a lot. 

We recently learned from the Connecticut Education Department’s assessment data from last year that student achievement still lags pre-pandemic levels. Students are performing about 6 to 8 percentage points below where they were in English and math and 4 points below where they were in science. This is an unacceptable statistic.  We can and should be doing more to pass legislation that improves classroom learning. We can do that by directing funding to training and professional development for teachers.  

Want to talk about loan forgiveness programs? Do more to incentivize individuals to go into public education. Take a holistic approach to learning in our inner cities where parents are in desperate need of more six-to-six schools for their children that provide not only an opportunity to learn academically, but grow socially through sports and activities that their suburban counterparts enjoy.  Instead, it’s alarming to know that the legislature in Connecticut is more focused on passing legislation supportive of ideology than it is in providing resources and training that would directly benefit kids in the classrooms.

The era of divisiveness has begun in earnest and it’s sadly in our classrooms. Fairfield Public School’s Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Digna Marte, retweeted racist and hateful remarks towards “white people” on her public Twitter profile. This was a person the district hired to unite; instead, there is an ideology perpetuating of “divide.” To date she remains employed by the district. How is this acceptable?

Project Veritas recently released a video of a Greenwich vice principal bragging about his discriminatory hiring practices, specifically not hiring Catholics or older teachers, who may be “conservative.”  He also admitted that the goal in doing so was to quietly indoctrinate children with progressive ideology. He thankfully has been placed on leave, but how did it come to this?

We send our children to school to learn.  To learn to read, to learn to write, to learn how to add and subtract.  We send them to school to learn how to be critical thinkers, self advocate, and build relationships with their peers through collaboration. We also send them with the expectation that they will respect their teachers and be kind to their peers.  That’s where we play a big role as parents, but too often now our voices are drowned out and ignored by government bureaucrats, legislators, and sadly some administrators, who are slowly building a future nation based on the principles of socialism and not the democracy we all enjoyed as children. 
I know many educators who are just as alarmed as parents, and we need to support them and encourage them to speak out against indoctrination.  We need to back funding for the public schools that goes to classroom resources, tutoring programs for reading, writing and arithmetic. This isn’t rocket science.  We need to advocate for our kids.

As your state representative in the 133rd District, I will do that. Your kids matter to me the same way my own do.  No more lockdowns, no more legislation that puts ideology ahead of basic academics, and instead I will focus more investment in six-to-six programs, mental health initiatives, after-school activities, tutoring and overall academic support.

Regardless of your political beliefs or affiliation, we should all agree that the classroom should be free from political ideology, and, given Connecticut’s recent student achievement trajectory, it’s time that we refocus on educating our children in reading, writing and arithmetic. 

Further, I pledge to you, to ask the General Assembly to consider adopting the following:

1)    Connecticut’s public and elected officials must affirm that parents and legal guardians are their children’s primary caregiver, responsible for their children’s education and health, as well as their moral and religious upbringing.
2)    The state of Connecticut must protect children from racial, religious, and political discrimination, manifesting in any form in its institutions, or from its educators. 
3)    Require that schools receive permission from parents before administering physical, mental, or emotional health services to students under 18 years of age. 
4)    Have transparency in curriculum and allow parents and in-district taxpayers to view the material being taught to children.

Michael Grant is a candidate for state representative in the 133rd District, which includes parts of Fairfield and Bridgeport.